SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Notre Dame tennis player Matt Dooley said the hardest person to tell he was gay was himself.
"Saying gay for the first time was extremely tough, almost choking, because you know your life will never be the same. That was the hardest part, to move forward from there," the 22-year-old senior said Thursday. "For me at least, every part of my being was like, 'No, no you're not.' But I talk about growing. You learn to accept what you can't change, and this is something I can't change."
Dooley says he has received "overwhelmingly positive" feedback since disclosing publicly on Monday in an article posted on Outsports.com that he was gay. He had told his coaches in August and his teammates on Sept. 16, the two-year anniversary of trying to commit suicide by overdosing on pills because he was struggling with who he was.
"That day I wanted nothing more than to escape the anguish of coming out to my family, my friends, and, in a way, myself," he wrote in the article. "Death was better than accepting — or revealing — that I was gay."
Even after the suicide attempt, he ostracized himself from his family for more than seven months because he feared their reaction and because he was still struggling to accept who he was. He wouldn't return his family's phone calls or emails and stayed away when they tried to visit, even though they were fully behind him when he came out.
"It's internal homophobia," he said. "Often time it's more of what you think of yourself."
Dooley's disclosure comes a matter of weeks after Missouri football player Michael Sam came out publicly, setting himself up to perhaps be the first openly gay player in the NFL. Jason Collins recently became the first openly gay player in the NBA and just signed a second, 10-day contract with the Brooklyn Nets.
Both have said they've received strong support.
Notre Dame's student handbook prohibits sex outside of marriage and the pastoral plan specifically states the university adheres to the Roman Catholic Church's teaching concerning homosexual actions and as a result, "Homosexual persons are called to chastity."
Dooley is working with the university's student welfare and development office to produce a video involving all teams at Notre Dame that will promote the You Can Play initiative, which fights sexual orientation discrimination. Members of PrismND, the first official organization dedicated to serving the gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning students on campus, were pleased to see Dooley come out.